Various Artists

Calypso: Vintage Songs from the Caribbean

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The most telling part of this compilation isn't in the music, but the liner notes, where it's noted that Eddy Grant's Ice Records owns the original masters of much classic Trinidadian calypso, and that it proved impossible to license that material for this disc. It's an honest acknowledgment; what it doesn't say explicitly is that it means that most of the songs here are, at best, second-rate. There's no Roaring Lion, one of the genre's majestic figures, no Lord Kitchener or Lord Melody, and no Lord Invader -- not even Chalkdust or Calypso Rose, two of calypso's major contemporary figures. There are good tracks from Lord Beginner (from the London Is the Place for Me record) and mento from Jamaica's Jolly Boys (and mento definitely isn't calypso). But a quick glance at the credits shows that 11 out of 15 titles are from Goombay Life World Music, all mostly fairly minor artists in the field. The Mighty Sparrow -- from his days as King Sparrow -- gets a cut, but "No More Rocking and Rolling" isn't his best. It's reasonable to assume that when a disc bills itself as "Calypso: Vintage Songs From the Caribbean," it will be fairly definitive, and Putumayo has generally done a good job in the past. But this time it just hasn't worked.

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